Ni Nyoman Tjandri, one of very few female Arja and Dalang (puppet masters) in Indonesia. Tjandri has had to refashion her participation in a ‘male’ art in order to make it acceptable for her as a woman artist and performer. There’s a general discourse about women and the arts in Bali that accounts for the ability of women to participate in this kind of art forms.

Her History

Born to an artist father, Tjandri was familiar with and fond of all forms of the Balinese performing arts, especially the Arja, a Balinese traditional drama that incorporates music and dance. The talented Tjandri gradually developed superb dance and vocal techniques through interaction with her father, I Made Kredek.

After her father’s death, Tjandri decided to learn the Kawi language to continue her efforts to master Balinese literature. She went to the well-known Dalang I Nyoman Ganjreng. Instead of giving Kawi lessons, Nyoman Ganjreng gave the girl four puppet figures. The puppet master told her she had to master the Kawi language through wayang stories, mostly derived from Ancient Indian and East Javanese epics and legends.

Her Carrier

In 1979 Tjandri decided to learn the art of the Dalang seriously and intensively. All wayang performances present a story, which is told by a Dalang. A Dalang must master at least 100 stories and be able to enliven each of the characters portrayed with distinctive vocal sounds. Being a Dalang, one must have plenty of physical stamina and a thorough knowledge of both the ancient Kawi language and high and low Balinese language, as well as its literature. She might only graduate from a boarding school (elementary level) but she able to become a lecturer at ASTI Denpasar and teach vocal at Udayana University.  She has received global recognition throughout her entire career for her accomplishments in Tembang and Arja art,  she also nominated to be Bali’s female character of the year 2010.

She started the Makara Dwaja Studio in Gianyar, Bali. Through her art performing studio, she providing traditional arts training such as Arja Dance to the younger generation. She dedicating her life to conserve traditional Balinese culture from onslaught of foreign cultural flows that invading Bali.

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